Long-term customers and good vendor relationships will carry you through challenging times and tight deadlines. Relationships with other business owners enable you to share struggles, successes, resources and best practices. All of this can give you an edge.
Business relationships are just like any other relationship — they require some effort to maintain and must be mutually beneficial.
As with any relationship, you must be willing to give, share and support — not just take and receive.
Here are 11 steps to take:
- Encourage honest feedback. An open, honest relationship requires communications of how each party is performing. Encourage constructive criticism and be willing to suggest ways clients can help you perform better. And when you do receive some constructive criticism, be sure the first words out of your mouth are, “thank you.”
- Listen more than you talk. Being a good listener highlights your virtues much better than being a big talker. Listen with more than your ears. Find the emotional connection with what’s being said.
- Make a routine to stay in touch. Devise a system to ensure not too much time passes before you connect with your contacts. It’s much easier to stay in touch with the growth of social media.
- Be honest. Maintain your integrity and transparency. Don’t pretend to be something you are not or to know something you do not. People will appreciate your honesty and their trust in you will grow.
- Take good notes. Keep detailed notes on everyone you meet and enter them into your CRM system. There’s no telling when a spouse or child’s name or an alumni affiliation will come in handy.
- Give more than you receive. Be sure to contact people when you don’t need something. Understand your client’s needs and wants and help them fulfill them — even if your product or service is not the solution.
- Be proactive. Use your knowledge of the relationship to forward articles, links and other information of value to your contacts. This will let your contacts know you are thinking of them and are aware of what’s important to them.
- Be real. Let people see who you are — it builds trust and respect.
- Turn mistakes into opportunities. Admitting mistakes and correcting them quickly will improve the relationship. People just want to know you’re sorry, you’re accountable and that you have a plan for getting the situation corrected.
- Make it personal. A personal letter will go a long way to differentiate you in the age of email. You can never say thank you too much.
- Meet face-to-face. You’ll deepen the relationship and get to know each other better.
What are your suggestions for building better business relationships?